Tuesday, May 30, 2023

XFINITY: Lengthy repairs on fuel pump leave Parker Kligerman last in Charlotte

PHOTO: @pkligerman

by Brock Beard
LASTCAR.info Editor-in-Chief

Parker Kligerman scored the 3rd last-place finish in Monday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #48 Big Machine Racing Spiked Coolers Chevrolet finished under power after 144 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Kligerman’s 68th series start, was his second of the season and first since Dover, two races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 5th where the driver was still running, the 9th for the #48, and the 617th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 33rd for the #48, the 51st while running, and the 1,889th for Chevrolet.

This moved Kligerman into the 2023 LASTCAR XFINITY Series lead as the first repeat last-place finisher of the season.

Following his rough outing at Dover, Kligerman finished 13th in Darlington, then after a strong practice run in the Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro missed the field by a fraction of a second. He’d return to action with Big Machine Racing’s entry in Charlotte as one of 40 entrants. In practice, he ran 25th, then secured the 20th starting spot with a lap of 176.864mph (30.532 seconds). Missing the show were Timmy Hill in the #66 Coble Commercial Properties Toyota and C.J. McLaughlin in the #53 Sci-Aps Ford. Both were likely back at the shop by the time the race began Monday morning, a 48-hour delay caused by rain.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose #45 South Point Bank / ForeverLawn Chevrolet was one of three cars unable to log a lap in qualifying, incurring a tail-end penalty as a result. All three made the show, including 36th-place Ryan Sieg – whose #39 CMRroofing.com Ford lost an engine in practice, and 37th-place Parker Retzlaff for unapproved adjustments on the #31 Funkaway Chevrolet. Unapproved adjustment penalties were also handed to 14th-place Josh Berry for a power steering issue on the #8 Tire Pros Love The Drive Chevrolet, 22nd-place Stefan Parsons in the #07 Springrates Chevrolet, and 24th-place Kyle Sieg in the #28 Cedar Ridge Landscaping Ford. The postponement also led to Justin Haley taking 6th-place Kyle Busch’s place in the #10 LA Golf Chevrolet. Rajah Caruth had issues starting his #44 Winston Salem State University Chevrolet, but got going in enough time to remain 19th on the grid.

Coming to the stripe, Berry was some distance behind Retzlaff, who was on the inside of Haley. But when the race started, Retzlaff was last across the stripe, 4.06 seconds back of the lead with Berry in 37th and Haley up to 34th. By the end of the first lap, the spot fell to Natalie Decker, who was a late driver swap into SS-Green Light Racing’s #08 Cracker Jack / Cracker Jill Chevrolet. At that point, Decker was 7.152 seconds back of the lead and 0.511 back of new 37th-place runner Blaine Perkins in the #02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet. By Lap 5, Decker pulled alongside Perkins, and the two were just 0.086 apart at the stripe. The battle continued for another lap – even closer, at 0.016 at the line. At last, Decker cleared Perkins, opening up three-tenths on him at Lap 7.

As Perkins monitored his car’s temperature readings, Decker reeled in new 36th-place runner Garrett Smithley, who reported an intermittent issue with either the motor or electrical system on his #4 Hoffman Tool Chevrolet. Decker passed Smithley on Lap 13, and Perkins closed to within 0.574 of the #4 the next time by. Perkins cut the gap to just 0.169 on Lap 16, then got under him and made it by on Lap 18. By then, Smithley was now 31.198 seconds back of the lead, but still within sight of Perkins, just 0.188 ahead. Smithley continued to run in Perkins’ tire tracks on the inside line as the leaders lapped them both on the outside of Turns 1 and 2. A competition caution came out on Lap 20, handing the Lucky Dog to Perkins. During this yellow, Smithley and crew talked about taking off the battery cover to examine the connections. But with Stage 1’s caution coming at Lap 45, Smithley’s team elected to stay out and take the wave-around. Before they could, rain began to fall, and the race was red-flagged. During the delay, Smithley’s crew discovered they only had one battery on hand, and discussed removing the rev limiter chip once the caution was back out.

When the track was dry, it was Carson Hocevar who this time couldn’t get rolling in his #77 Premier Security Chevrolet. As the field rolled around him, the crew called for a wrecker to push him, and sought out a replacement battery in Brandon Jones’ pit stall. The crew also had to prepare their stall, which was blocked by blower fans that Chandler Smith’s crew was using to dry their own stall. Hocevar then discovered he had accidentally tripped the “kill switch” on the steering wheel. He pushed it again, and the car re-fired, regaining his original spot.

Through Hocevar’s issues, Smithley remained in last, and on Lap 30 received his wave-around to rejoin the lead-lap cars. On Lap 31, after the choose cone, Smithley dropped Decker back to last, and the spotter was watching a car ahead of him. “Not a big fan of that 74, but we’ll make quick waste of him,” Smithley’s team said, referring to Dawson Cram in the #74 CHK Racing Chevrolet. Anthony Alfredo made a pit stop in his #78 Andy’s Frozen Custard Chevrolet, but remained ahead of Decker’s #08. 

The Lap 32 restart was a slow one for Decker, who by Lap 35 dropped from 1.843 to 2.457 seconds back of 37th-place Smithley. “Don’t turn early on me,” her spotter advised. Further ahead, Smithley was counting down the laps to the end of Stage 1, and on Lap 38 remained 1.567 behind Cram’s #74. Both soon passed Stefan Parsons, whose #07 began to slip back through the rankings due to an issue with either the throttle linkage or carburetor. “Gonna get in front of that 4 and 07 if we can,” said Decker’s spotter. By Lap 41, Smithley had dropped Parsons to 37th with Decker closing fast. This allowed Decker to catch and pass Parsons by Lap 43, the two already 0.785 second apart.

On Lap 45, the last lap of Stage 1, Parsons was lapped off Turn 2, which secured him the Lucky Dog. But, once again, a gathering mist had turned to rain, forcing another red flag. Prior to that, Parsons’ crew wanted to look under the hood and make a second stop to service the car. NASCAR made another attempt to restart the event, but the rain continued to fall. “I know they want to get this in,” said someone on Parsons’ channel. “But come on, let's have a little common sense here.” The rain intensified, forcing a postponement of the race’s remaining 151 laps with all 38 starters still running on the lead lap.

When engines re-fired following the Coca-Cola 600, Parsons was running by himself in the high lane under caution, waiting for NASCAR to let him pass the pace car. This was done on Lap 51, and the next time by he climbed past Cole Custer, whose #00 3D Systems Ford needed lengthy repairs for damage to his right-rear fender. Smithley retook the spot on Lap 54, but when Parsons’ carburetor issue required lengthy repairs, he was again one lap down in last place for the Lap 56 restart.

Under green on Lap 63, Daniel Hemric made an unscheduled stop for a loose left-rear wheel on his #11 Cirkul Chevrolet. He lost a lap as he returned to the track in 37th, one spot ahead of Parsons. This put Hemric in the Lucky Dog spot until Lap 73, when the leaders caught Natalie Decker and other cars trailing the pack. Also finding trouble was Brett Moffitt, who on Lap 88 bounced off the wall in his #25 AMerican Heroes Ford after a flat right-front tire. Moffitt returned to the track as the new 37th-place runner, and when Stage 2 ended on Lap 90, the leaders had lapped their way up to 28th. Moffitt received additional repairs on Lap 96, but remained ahead of Parsons – but not for long.

On Lap 97, Kligerman’s car was being pushed down pit road by a wrecker, citing a loss of power. He went behind the wall, where the crew put the #48 on jack stands and set to work on the fuel pump. On Lap 99, when Kligerman took last place, the team decided against filling the car with more fuel and set to work finding the replacement fuel pump. Unfortunately, the crew never found the new pump, which was believed to be in a plastic tote on the hauler. The effort then became to replace the fuel pump cable, which was frayed at one end. On Lap 120, the crew had Kligerman re-fire the engine, but reported no fuel pressure. Kligerman then bumped the starter instead of the ignition, and the crew said they had to pull the failing fuel pump from the car. Somehow, the crew got the car to fire on Lap 145, at which point they were 51 laps down with just 55 laps to go. He returned to the track on Lap 149, and by Lap 151 was shown 54 laps down. With no other driver more than three laps down, Kligerman was assured the last-place finish. But the team elected to finish the rest of the race under power. In the final laps, Kligerman reported a vibration, but still finished the race 56 laps down.

By Lap 181, Blaine Perkins had fallen out with a blown engine – the only retiree from the race. He remined 37th at the checkered flag, still 19 laps ahead of Kligerman’s still-running car. Between 36th-place Cram and 34th-place Decker came Sam Mayer, who after spinning his #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet shredded a right-front tire, destroying his fender.

Jordan Anderson Racing, Hocevar, and Kyle Sieg impress during Charlotte's late hours

Jordan Anderson Racing enjoyed another strong race with Parker Retzlaff finishing 6th ahead of teammate Jeb Burton’s #27 PurYear Tank Lines Chevrolet in 7th. Carson Hocevar took 8th in just his third series start - his second in the #77 Premier Security Chevrolet – and second top-ten finish in that span. Also impressive was Kyle Sieg, who finished 11th in the #28 Cedar Ridge Landscaping Ford – his second-best career finish.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #48 in a XFINITY Series race at Charlotte since October 14, 2005, when Jimmie Johnson scored his first career series last-place run after crashing his #48 Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet 29 laps into the Dollar General 300.
*The 144 laps completed by Kligerman was the second-most by a XFINITY last-place finisher who came home under power, trailing only the 180 laps by Ed Feree at Langley Field Speedway on April 30, 1988.

38) #48-Parker Kligerman / 144 laps / running
37) #02-Blaine Perkins / 163 laps / engine
36) #74-Dawson Cram / 193 laps / running
35) #1-Sam Mayer / 193 laps / running
34) #08-Natalie Decker / 195 laps / running

1st) Big Machine Racing, CHK Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (2)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)


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